The live entertainment industry was hardest hit by COVID restrictions — but theatre is making a comeback in central Alberta this fall.
Opening the curtain again on stage productions, “feels super wonderful to be honest,” said Craig Scott, president of Central Alberta Theatre.
He’s optimistic that CAT’s fall and winter season will go ahead as planned, since his production of And Then There Were None is currently running without a hitch at Innisfail Town Theatre’s Ol’ Moose Hall.
CAT’s season launches with All Together Now, a special musical revue that contains popular songs from Beauty and the Beast, Les Miserables and many other big-ticket Broadway shows.
Royalties for these songs are being lifted for one weekend only — Nov. 13 and 14 — so the tunes can be used to raise badly needed funds for hundreds of theatre groups across North America, who are left in a financial hole because of the pandemic, says Scott.
The revue will run at the Memorial Centre, under the provincial government’s Restrictions Exemption Program. Scott said customers, so far, seem understanding that proof of vaccinations are needed before they can attend a show, otherwise theatres can’t operate. (For more information please visit www.centralalbertatheatrereddeer.com. )
Most of the CAT’s other shows will run at Festival Hall, next to the Memorial Centre in three formats — either as catered dinner theatres, chicken wing nights, or theatre-only performances. Scott said he understands that people are still nervous about attending crowd events, so audience capacity was lowered to six people per table instead of eight.
CAT’s dinner theatre season kicks off with the Christmas extravaganza, Miracle on 34th Street. Scott, who is the show’s director, is remounting this production after the “heartbreak” of having to pull it a week before it was to open last Christmas because of rising COVID-19 cases.
Michael Sutherland is still on track to play Kris Kringle in this play about a man who has to prove in court he is Santa Claus.
In January, CAT will bring back the one-woman show, Fully Committed, starring Ashley Mercia, which has to be cancelled after two performances in 2020. In March, Norm Foster’s comedy, Hilda’s Yard will be staged.
CAT will also host a provincial One-Act Play Festival in April.
In Lacombe, Cow Patti professional theatre is aiming for its “biggest and most boisterous season yet” after having to cancel its 2020-2021 season due to COVID-19.
The decision was made to boldly go forward with four dinner theatre shows and a new buffet menu to celebrate the theatre’s 25th season milestone this year, because it couldn’t happen last year.
Among the actors who are coming from across the country to perform in Cow Patti shows is Canada’s most produced playwright (and thespian) Norm Foster — who has an Order of Canada for his achievements.
Foster will share the stage with Lea in On a First Name Basis. The comedy about a man and his house cleaner is slated to run Feb. 3-27, 2022.
Meanwhile, Cow Patti is putting on Sugar Road, by Kristen Da Silva, from Nov. 11 to Dec. 12. The off-kilter play is about a small-town amusement park owner who gets some romantic deja vu when she tries to book a country star to perform.
Cow Patti shows planned for next spring are the Foster comedy about seniors, Jonas and Barry, In the Home, from March 16 to April 3, and the Leisa Way’s Sweet Dreams tribute concert to the music by Patsy Cline, from April 7-17.
Cow Patti dinner theatre, at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club, also must operate under the province’s Restrictions Exemption Program.
“We need to bring the lights back up on the Cow Patti Stage to ensure its future,” writes artistic director AnnaMarie Lea in a note to patrons on the Cow Patti website.
“Our mandate this season is to augment the well-being of our patrons and to offer up a unified space where joy and laughter is ensured.”